LaSonja Harrison, President of the JTA
KINGSTON, Jamaica — With thousands of students pre-enrolled in the Sixth-Form Pathways program, which is expected to start in high schools and select community and teacher colleges in the new school year, many institutions are not ready for the initiative due to a lack of resources compounded by the recent mass exodus of teachers.
Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) President LaSonja Harrison said ONLINE OBSERVER that educational institutions have struggled to prepare students who wish to participate in the program.
“So this policy directive is being put in place and there is not a lot of consultation with the said directors who will be expected to carry out this policy directive and so we find that physical distancing remains a chronic problem. This issue of retaining two cohorts, because some of these same schools are already overcrowded; so where are we going to put these extra people? Harrison asked.
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“Coupled with the fact that we have an impending teacher shortage which could affect maintaining the skills and competencies needed to complete some of these programs – particularly to facilitate students on pathways two and three, as we already have a deficit in terms of teacher availability for technical and vocational fields – there will be a kind of challenge,” she added.
The program is divided into three “courses”. Students pursuing the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) are in Pathway One. Those who will participate in the technical and vocational courses can be found in “Pathway Two”. ‘Pathway Three’ facilitates students who have not passed the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and will be able to retake subjects or acquire certificates.
Harrison also argued that there is a disparity in the funds that will be provided to high schools and community and teacher colleges to facilitate students in the program. She said while high schools will get $17,000 per student, colleges will get $60,000 per student.
“When I asked [a principal] regarding funding, I was told it was the same $17,000 that is paid per child in their high school [stage of schooling] – that is, from the seventh to the ninth grade, it’s the same $17,000 that will be given to the schools to help with this new sixth-grade initiative, and if someone does an audit on the market, that that it costs to deliver a sixth form program in the traditional sense, you know $17,000 is nowhere in there,” Harrison explained.
“Community colleges or teachers’ colleges who will participate in the program – because places are not available in some schools, the ministry has arranged for a nearby teachers’ college or community college to assimilate some of the students – these colleges receive $60,000 per child. So high school principals say, “I don’t understand why you give us $17,000 and then give community colleges or teacher colleges a different amount to facilitate the same program?” JTA president said. . said.
Harrison said while this initiative is good and necessary, the lack of conversation with those who will need to implement it and the lack of funding and space remain huge issues even with the imminent start of the new school year.
“Schools that already have a traditional sixth, they will definitely go ahead, but where they didn’t have a technical/vocational area to facilitate those in pathways two and three, they’re going to have their own set of challenges, and likewise those with the technical vocation, they can just move into the traditional sixth form college, but again, physical spacing remains an issue,” Harrison explained.
The JTA president stressed that teachers are raising these concerns not to resist the new curriculum, but to highlight the problems that schools and their administrators will face if certain resources are not made available, because they are the ones who experience the challenges first hand.
“Please note that the fact that we have raised concerns about the rollout of the initiative does not mean that we conclude that the concept is bad. Our position as educators on the ground is that we do not have been consulted enough to determine if we are ready to implement the same. We need to continue the dialogue because we all agree that a mechanism must be used to save our children from post-secondary school,” said Harrison.
She added that JTA anticipates “the kind of dialogue needed to highlight some of the issues and realities that are on the ground even as we seek to find the best answer as we seek to facilitate the same.”
Speaking at the JTA annual conference last week, Education Minister Fayval Williams revealed that more than 17,000 students have pre-registered for the programme.